New Zealand’s first kaupapa Māori electricity retail company
Nau Mai Rā want to end power poverty in Aotearoa through the spirit of manaakitanga – care of others
Born out of the passion to ensure Māori participation in the electricity industry, Nau Mai Rā are working tirelessly to end power poverty in Aotearoa through the spirit of manaakitanga.
Nau Mai Rā are helping whānau to reconnect and give back to kaupapa (projects) of their choosing such as their marae, kura kaupapa (schools), or the newly-founded Whānau Fund. The Whānau fund which was established during the March 2020 COVID-19 lockdown in Aotearoa to assist whānau needing support to keep the lights on due to financial hardship.
Ezra Hirawani (Waikato), and longtime friend Ben Armstrong (Ngāti Hine) are co-founders, and the driving force behind Nau Mai Rā. The business is based in Kirikiriroa (Hamilton), and has been running since June 2019. The early-start venture has been steadily growing with a groundswell of support from communities across Aotearoa keen to use their power bill for good.
During Kōkiri 2020 programme, greater fluctuations in energy prices this winter was one of the key obstacles that the team had to work to overcome. They investigated and worked hard to secure stability of supply for their customers to continue to be able to operate alongside electricity giants.
Upon returning from living abroad in China, Ezra found that power poverty was one of the key challenges faced by whānau. In addition, though the natural resources of Aotearoa were being utilised to generate power in multiple ways, Māori were often seeing little benefit from the profits or the highly skilled employment opportunities the energy generation industry creates. To demonstrate the gap, there are approximately 40 electricity retail companies in Aotearoa, and Nau Mai Rā is the only one which is Māori owned and founded.
Both Ezra and Ben grew up outside of Te Ao Māori (Māori worldview/customs), and were looking for new ways to reconnect with their marae, their haapu and iwi. “We realised that they we were not alone in this desire to reconnect with lost places and people,” says Ezra. “We were committed to making a positive impact for ourselves and others on a journey of reconnection and designed Nau Mai Rā as a channel for our customers reconnect and give back.”
With support from local power industry experts, the duo began Nau Mai Rā. Without a dollar spent on marketing to date, the businesses Facebook page has already had close to 11,000 likes.
The team are proud that their customers have already given back nearly $10,000 to their chosen kaupapa including The Whānau Fund without paying any more for their power.
Rather than greedily hoard profits, Nau Mai Rā Ltd have built the opportunity to give back into their billing model. With every bill their customers pay a portion to a cause of their choosing, whether it is to The Whānau Fund to help those unable to pay their bill this month due to financial hardship, or to their Mārae to go towards their power bill and other initiatives for their Hapū. This provides an easy way to make a big positive difference to those who need it most
Following on from their experience of coming through the accelerator programme, the team are travelling the motu (country), as COVID-19 restrictions allow, working to establish additional positive partnerships with Non-Government Organisations (NGO) and Iwi groups who share their vision of eliminating power poverty.
The Nau Mai Rā Team truly appreciate the support of their community, especially their loyal customers, in achieving what they have so far, and have ambitions to be supplying electricity nationwide in the very near future.
Ezra Hirawani (Waikato), and longtime friend Ben Armstrong (Ngāti Hine) are co-founders, and the driving force behind Nau Mai Rā.
Ezra explains that they applied to the business accelerator “to join an elite group of Māori Entrepreneurs, and a Māori entrepreneurial community”
“One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned from Kōkiri is the power of networking, … they (Kōkiri) have been amazing in connecting us with their networks in the power industry” says Ben.